Tuesday, January 19, 2010

lessons in learning

Yesterday's MLK holiday felt like a day off from a day off. Snowed in, with plans cancelled, it was time to pray and ponder. Having been in San Francisco during the big
1989 earthquake, it is still difficult to grasp what Haitians are enduring. Even on a good day, they face poverty and corruption.

I decided to reread Phil Hoose's book, "Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice" which just won the Newbury Honor. Bravo to Phil, for bringing non-fiction to new heights. A brave Claudette Colvin tells it like it was, and often still is.

My daughter was involved in a powerful reading group project last year at King Middle School, that read Hoose's book, before publication, and worked with Art Ed majors from Maine College of Art. They created posters for a Portland METRO bus. It was a fascinating weave of language arts, visual literacy, civic history, and public art.

She chose to draw a portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr. with a quote, taken from the book: "And we are determined here in Montgomery to work and fight until justice runs down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream."


Portraits are hard enough, but to capture a famous person is no easy thing. We were all proud of her graphic efforts, along with all the students who enhanced their learning with art making. She turned up later in this photo that appeared in a MECA newsletter.

Also pictured here is Art Ed student, Simon Adams. He spoke at a hearing in Augusta about the importance of art education, saying: "Before human beings had any kind of language, and daily survival was our main priority, people still took the time to paint on cave walls. Art is more than distraction; it is fundamental to our species. When we are gone, it will be our art, not our test scores, that tells our tale."


This is his piece for the bus, that repeats Claudette's face in many colors, a sly reference to the term "coloreds" which was so prevalent a distinction in Jim Crow south.

I was back in two art classrooms this past week, trying to open minds while keeping pencils sharp. I do believe that drawing an object, a person, anything, brings us closer to it. We form a new relationship with that entity, really looking, and putting our perceptions on paper, making our own sense out of what we see in the world.

At SMCC, I asked students to draw logos in the environment. This is an exercise in being aware of the saturation of brands in our culture, as well as an object drawing challenge. The choices we make reveal our interests and level of engagement. Six drawings in an hour, please.

So I drew alongside them, to give them the space they needed.

My first item:

On the surface, a straightforward drawing. But the coiled and unplugged cord said something else about my inability to access the college portal last week.


Though my trusty water bottle is looking low, I've recently learned all about hydration. Note to self: drink more water.

Just one of many brands in my bag, with a hint of self.

I headed out to the lobby, where two students were also drawing. This vending machine cannot be ignored.

Back to the classroom, looking at student drawings. Borrowed this item from a student who just might be a neatnik.

I can picture this as a collosal object, falling, and obliterating all the mistakes of
a tiny village of bad spellers.

After this one, I needed some air. Headed over to Security, to find out why my new SMCC faculty ID was not working at the parking gate. Drew this camera, used for photo ID pictures, while they "recoded" my ID. Ah, the wonders of a surveillance state.

On my way back to class, spotted this newspaper box.

Watch out, Beacon! Armed with the submission schedule, I'll be fixin' to get some student works in there. There will be good things coming out of ART-190, I can tell already.

I bombed over the bridge to MECA for my afternoon Illustration 2 class. They're working on a different project and showed sketches and ideas about domestic rituals. Then we had an impromptu session of life drawing, with nonsense props. Props can make all the difference. I brought in some out-of-scale foam lobster claws, a big pair of wooden scissors, and a parasol. Another student brought in a Nerf gun. The first volunteer very gamely used all the props, and thus broke the ice for everyone with good humor.
Thanks, Shawn!

This student brought a very tattered baby doll, painted blue. It was a graduation gift from her science teacher. Maybe a lesson on shaken baby syndrome? She held it with such tenderness, a whole story could be written around this pose. Thanks, Sam.

Last pose, thanks to Devin. Very satirical and begging of parody. I suggested to the class they could draw what was there as well as what wasn't. (A pool of blood, perhaps?)

Thanks to intelligent students, I'll be learning from them every class. We'll exchange our curiosities about the world, one drawing at a time.

1 comment:

Dani Lee Evans said...

Using the SMCC portal is kind of like trying to squeeze lemon juice out your ears. Good luck with that. I'm pretty sure they coded it in the early 80's and have never touched it since.
(I recognize that Soda Machine, it's a favorite of mine.)